Are tomatoes fruits?

If you ever being on the internet, you have definitely seen people saying that tomatoes are fruits, not vegetables. But are they really?

The problem is that people use the word “fruit” in many ways, which is confusing. There is a word “fruit” that describes some product of the plant that is sweet or sour. Other similar “entities” that are used in cooking are vegetables, nuts and berries. Vegetables are basically anything produced by plants that is not sweet, nuts are dry and solid, berries are sweet or sour as fruits, but small and round.

The confusion stems from the fact that the same terms are used in botany, but with a different meaning.

Basic plant structure
Fig.1 - Basic plant structure

In botany, fruit is some structure that contains seeds in flowering plants. It has nothing to do with fruits in its culinary meaning, and could be called differently. Some other structures of plants are roots and leaves. There are no such thing as vegetables in botany, but it is easier to use this term in culinary, because that is how we distinguish if something is sweet or not. Berry has also a different meaning in botany: it is a type of fruits. Some other types of fruits and its examples are:

  • berry (banana, tomato, grape, avocado)
  • drupe (mango, peach, plum, almond, coconut)
  • hesperidium (orange, lemon)
  • pepo (watermelon, cucumber, pumpkin)
  • pome (apple, pear)
  • capsule (brazil nut)
  • nut (chestnut, hazelnut)

Classification of fruits depends on its structure and from which parts and tissues the fruit developed.

So, there are two meanings of what fruit is, the culinary meaning and the meaning it has in botany, and saying that “tomatoes are fruits, not vegetables” is wrong, because they are both fruits and vegetables.